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INTERVIEW: I was overlooked for many years, says Mike Edwards, Briton representing Nigeria at Commonwealth Games

Mere weeks after becoming champion at the SPAR British Athletics Indoor, Michael Olayemi Edwards did the unexpected.

The high jump athlete and business owner announced that he had switched allegiance to Nigeria — and will represent the green white green at the Commonwealth Games.

He says the prospect of being Nigeria’s first high jumper at the Commonwealth Games in over 50 years informed his decision.

Since the switch, Edwards, whose father is Jamaica and mother is Nigerian, has become one of the most talked-about athletes going to Australia.

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In this Interview with TheCable, Edwards speaks about his Nigerian background, his cigar and grooming companies, as well as the fact that his fiancé will compete for a different country at the Games.


How thrilled are you at the prospect of representing Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games?

I am absolutely buzzing. I can’t wait to put on the Nigerian uniform and compete at the Games.

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Of late, you’ve been the in the news, how do you feel about the attention?

I feel honoured to be mentioned in any news. For many years, I’ve been overlooked so I am embracing the change.

After several years, you recently won the SPAR British Athletics Indoor championship. What changed?

I switched coaches this winter. I now train with world-renowned high jump coach Cliff Rovelto based in Kansas, US. The training program and the group I’m in give me a lot of confidence. I’d say that has been the biggest difference. Also, I am having fun.

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What was the first thing that came to your mind after winning?

I thought to myself God’s plan then quietly whispered “British champion” before congratulating the contenders.

What does your name ‘Olayemi’ mean to you?

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Wealthy mind.

How did you make the move towards representing Nigeria at the Games?

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I met with Athletics team manager Sunny Omotayo. He later introduced me to the rest of the family in London last summer at the World Athletics Championships.

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What is the goal of your Aireyys brand and how do you feel about being criticised for smoking and selling cigars?

My company is an extension of my personality. I put a lot of detail in creating what is now a growing brand. The goal for the “Cigar Line” is celebrating success, and there is no better success than to give back. Which is why every cigar sold provides clean drinking water for a person in need for an entire year.

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It doesn’t bother me now if I receive abuse. It’s a lot bigger than me at this point. I enjoy an occasional cigar for celebrations. If people criticise me, that’s their problem.

Your fiance, Perri Shakes-Drayton, will represent another country at the Commonwealth Games? Won’t that affect your relationship?

Of course not I’m going to support my fiancée 100% no matter what country she represents.

How prepared are you physically for the Commonwealth Games?

My coach is preparing me daily for the Games – I’m healthy and mentally strong. I take each day as it comes.

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